Archive for Exercise 3

Experimenting with Light

Posted in Project work with tags on February 5, 2010 by Judy Bach

Window Light Indoors

Taken indoors using window light in a room with white walls, without any additional light source.

 As this is a portrait of a child I did not want the dark, hard, shadows side lighting  can create.  Therefore I stood  my subject to face a large patio window at an angle of 45 degrees in front of a plain backdrop. I wanted to use just the available diffused daylight. The light has created highlights in her hair on the side nearest to the window, there is a soft shadow on the opposite side of her face . Her skin looks quite smooth and there are catch lights just visible in her eyes.

This light helps create a very flattering portrait.

F2       1/200             ISO 400            50mm               Custom WB          Spot metering

Window light indoors/ March

I returned to using diffused daylight indoors in March to compare the difference in light. Soft bright  light outdoors, morning, diffused by cloud. Same subject but positioned in front of the window not in front of a backdrop. The light is soft and bright in this image. Exposure was tricky, I used spot metering, needed + 2.5  stops meter reading to expose her face correctly. The lighting and background have created a gentle looking portrait with muted colours. One of my personal favourites.

F3.2    56mm   1/250    ISO 250    Spot metering   Custom WB  + 2.5 stops exposure      




Flash with diffuser, bounced off a white ceiling. Room with white walls, subject stood in front of a black backdrop. Mid afternoon, dull day, wintertime.

I use a Canon Speedlite , not the on board camera flash.

I try never use frontal flash without a diffuser attached, and  usually attempt to bounce the light from the ceiling if its white and relatively low. I use a really cheap  diffuser from Jessop’s,  (it looks like a shower cap!). I also have  a soft box , beauty dish, and snoot that I can attach to my flash, but these are a pain to use, so more often than not I just use my cheap diffuser. If I forget to use my diffuser the face of my subject  often looks over-exposed, startled and  flat.  This is one of the perils of flash photography, features can lack any modelling , additionally deep shadows and loss of detail in shadow areas can be a problem.  Nevertheless flash does help colours “pop”. Martin Parr (whom I adore)  uses flash to create garish images, this is his style and a characteristic of his photography, but not something I am going to try and replicate here for my portraits.

 Chapter 10     Roswell Angier, Train your gaze: A Practical and Theoretical Introduction To Portrait Photography. Ava publishing 2007 ,  is relevant to the use of flash.

F4     1/125        ISO 400         70mm     Flash WB    Spot metering

Indoors/ Flash no diffuser

This image, in comparison to the previous image taken with diffused flash , has less natural looking skin tones and the composition is rather flat. However the colour of the subjects dress is bright

F5.6          1/60           ISO 400          50mm 

Outside /Midmorning diffused light

The light was bright but softly diffused by clouds when I took this image. Placing my subject in front of a glazed patio door I pulled some voile curtains across the inside to prevent any reflection from the window. This gentle light does not produce shadows, and helps create  a complimentary  portrait.It  lacks the drama some lighting can create but not a problem for a child’s natural looking portrait I feel.

F6.3       1/125         ISO 200          85mm     Daylight WB

Daylight/Backlit with fill in flash

This image is intended to show the benefit of using  flash in an outdoor daylight situation. My subject was backlit, this can cause problems getting the correct exposure. Often, if the face is well exposed,  the background details are lost. Or otherwise the strong backlight creates dark shadows across the face. My location is not particularly brilliant to demonstrate this , but the background detail has not been lost and the flash has produced a sparkle in her eyes.

F5.6        1/160       75mm          ISO 200        Custom WB     Partial metering

Older Model

I like a portrait to show the character of an individual if possible & therefore not all of my portraits are intended to flatter the subject. I love wrinkles, scars & imperfections to be visible , they are part of whom the subject is. I can understand however that most people really want a flattering portrayal of themselves (myself included!). Hence it is interesting to compare the different effect of light on an individual subject.

Diffused natural light

Taken outside against a south facing wall on a dull overcast afternoon, creating soft diffused light. This type of light is especially flattering for portraits as  there are no harsh shadows which  helps  retain the clarity of the image. I positioned my model against a brick wall facing forward. I wanted to utilize the tones & texture of the wall to contrast with her paler skin and soft hair to compensate for the lack of modelling this type of light can create.

F4.5         1/80         28mm       ISO 400      Daylight WB

Side light using  available daylight indoors

I set my tripod up inside a room with white walls & a south facing window. I used a black background & sat my subject on a stool to the side of the window. I also used a cable release as I needed to shoot @  a slow speed. What I like about this type of lighting is the added drama it can create but there is the danger of losing too much detail in the shadows. The face has depth & form creating character by showing her deep wrinkles. The expression on her face softens what could be a harsh image.  Not sharp enough focus though, perhaps my tripod was not stable enough?

F6.3           55mm          0.6secs         ISO 400          Daylight WB

Canon speedlite with diffuser & beauty dish 

Set up as for indoors using available light but using flash with a diffuser/beauty dish.  I actually quite like this, there are catch lights in her eyes. The beauty dish has created a broader more diffused light than using the on-camera flash which can create deep unflattering shadows. Caught unaware my subject’s expression is not exactly becoming ! But as I have said I do not always aim to create a pleasing portrayal.

F4.5                 59mm              1/80              ISO 400             Flash WB

Canon Speedlite bounced off white ceiling.

I feel the light does nothing to enhance this image, which looks flat & has little dimensional feel to it @ all. The texture of her skin on her cheeks has been almost smoothed out. I often use bounce flash but feel it has not improved this particular portrait.

F4.5        59mm            1/80           ISO 400        Flash WB